Raytheon and the US Navy have completed the first test flight of the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile, clearing the way for the new ship and submarine vertically launched weapon to enter low-rate initial production (LRIP). The UK and the USN at the same time have awarded the company a $27 million jointly funded contract to begin adapting the missile for a torpedo tube launch (TTL) capability.

The manufacturer is expecting an LRIP contract for the first 32 Tactical Tomahawk missiles following the first of two company demonstration test (DT) firings. A second (DT-1) missile is scheduled to be launched in November from a submerged static launcher before the start next year of eight planned technical evaluation test flights and four operational evaluation firings by 2004.

DT-0 included a launch from ground-based vertical launcher, transition to cruise mode and 880km (475nm) guided flight during which the missile demonstrated two Block IV capabilities comprising two-way satellite communications and in-flight retargeting. The test flight also included demonstrations of variable dive angles, terminal manoeuvres and GPS-satellite navigation/digital scene-matching area correlation.

Block IV Tactical Tomahawk has been designed for vertical launch from ships and submarines, but further work is needed to adapt software and develop a shroud for pressurised ejection from a torpedo tube. Neither the Royal Navy's nuclear-powered submarines (SSN) nor the USN Seawolf-class SSNs are equipped for vertical launch and will have to wait until 2005 for the TTL version.

Source: Flight International